North Peace officials are looking for ways to help clear blown down trees and fund emergency power generators for residents still feeling the devastation of a severe storm last summer.
MLA Dan Davies is urging the provincial government for a plan to remove trees and other debris left by the tornado-like storm on June 30, while Electoral Director Karen Goodings is investigating ways to provide grants for residents to offset the costs of buying a generator.
Davies says the debris left in impacted areas of Red Creek, Coffee Creek, Doig River, Blueberry River, and Prespatou are a potential wildfire “powder keg.” In a letter to forests minister Katrine Conroy last month, he proposed a clean up of Crown land to take place in spring 2022.
"We need to manage our forests better, we know that" said Davies. "Prescribed burning is a critical piece of that forest management and it's something that's been advocated for, for a number of years now, just generally to help clean up our forests."
The storm caused a series of downbursts that destroyed homes and businesses, and left thousands without power for days, with winds reaching estimated maximum speeds of 190 kilometres per hour in some of the impacted areas. BC Hydro said more than 330 spans of wire, 60 cross arms, 30 power poles, and 15 transformers had to be replaced because of the storm.
“The government needs to be looking at trimming back these trees by the power lines,” said Davies. “We had massive outages for weeks during that windstorm and a lot was because these big trees are right beside the power lines.”
Goodings says residents are also no longer satisfied waiting for BC Hydro to make repairs during natural disasters, calling it "a serious issue not just an inconvenience."
At a Nov. 25 committee meeting, electoral directors authorized staff to research the potential of creating a grant fund to assist affected residents with the cost of purchasing and installing generators.
“You’re seeing an increase in rural residents purchasing them and installing generators that would kick in when there’s an extended period of time without the power,” said Goodings. “It allows them to keep their water running. In the rural areas of course, if you don’t have power, you don’t have water.”
Goodings herself has a generator, costing roughly $17,000 for purchase and installation. If the regional district moves forward with any kind of grant program, the money could come from the regional district.
"It's not cheap to do but a lot of people feel that BC Hydro power is just not reliable enough,” said Goodings. “And if you have to be away for a day or two days, or three days, you want to make sure your deep freezers are still running.”
Electoral Director Dan Rose, who chairs the electoral area directors committee, said creating a fund and policy to administer it was worth the discussion.
“I think there’s an opportunity here for advocacy,” said Rose, noting he also has a generator and that many rural residents are making sure they are more self-sufficient. “As these storms and these problems get to be more and more widespread, how are we going to help?”
Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org